It is 2003. You love your new Juicy tracksuit and you cannot wait to see Pirates of the Carribean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Orlando Bloom is a total hunk, but you cannot get past the sexy and funny Captain Jack Sparrow. With the start of his swashbuckling movie trilogy and title of People’s 2003 Sexiest Man Alive–Johnny Depp is on top of the world.
Today, Johnny Depp still appears under headlines–but instead of Oscar nomination, it is for news of on-set fights, tattoo coverups or financial turmoil. In June of this year, Rolling Stone ran a troubling article on the actor. Reporter Stephen Rodrick, who spent 72 hours with Depp, describes a man wanting “to bare his soul about his empty bank accounts.” The article paints Depp as alcohol-fueled, plagued by loss and barrelling towards bankruptcy.
In a cruel nod to his past, Rolling Stone includes a “Three Decades of Johnny” as a side-panel of the article. The section shows all seven times the actor has graced the cover of the iconic magazine–first in 1991 following his establishing himself as a serious actor through Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands and most recently in 2007 with Keith Richards. This only further amplifies the question swirling around Depp–how did this happen?
Depp was hit hard by the death of his mother, Betty Sue Palmer, in May of 2016. Depp described his mother as “a hellcat” and that “she was mean, but she was funny.” Death of close friend Tom Petty also devastated Depp. “I loved him,” Depp said of the late musician.
However, the clearest answer can be found in the collapse of his marriage to actress, musician, and model Amber Heard. The couple met on the set of The Rum Diary in 2011 and were married in 2015.
On May 21, 2016, the LAPD arrived at Heard and Depp’s home due to a domestic violence call. Two days later, Heard officially filed for divorce. In the media firestorm that ensued, it was revealed that Depp was a physical and psychological abuser. The magazine who had twice named Depp “the sexiest man alive” published images of an injured Heard and TMZ released videos and photos of Depp appearing enraged and unstable. His daughter, Lily-Rose Depp, lept to his defense with an Instagram post calling him “the sweetest most living person I know.” This post has since been deleted. Social media and tabloids exploded as some called Heard a liar and many declared Depp to be “canceled.”
In mid-Augst, 2016, Heard won a $7 million divorce settlement and donated the entire sum to the ACLU (with a focus on stopping violence against women) and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
Reports of an explosive Depp have been around for years–from assaulting bodyguards to public screaming matches with ex-girlfriend Kate Moss in the ’90s. However, even with this public knowledge of domestic abuse, his career did not come to a screeching halt. Despite reports of Depp being incapable of remembering lines, he was still cast in major films throughout 2016 and 2017 including Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and City of Lies.
Dior raised eyebrows when it released ‘Sauvage’ (meaning ‘wild’ in French), a cologne with an ad campaign starred Depp–only weeks after his settlement was finalized. In the commercial Depp jams on a guitar then drives a muscle car from a city into the desert. The whole thing reeks of insensitive timing and was called “bizarre” and “confusing.” One print ad still stands in its glass case on 7th Avenue near New York City’s Penn Station. I pass it on my way to work and it makes my stomach churn every time.
And then there’s the drugs and alcohol. Depp has stated that he began his long history of substance abuse when he was a preteen. He says he “poisoned” himself “for years” with alcohol. Depp is unable to watch What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, which he stars in, as it brings back many memories related to his issues with substance abuse at the time.
Decades later, Depp still appears to be plagued by these problems. During the filming of City of Lies in April of 2017, crew members reported his breath smelling of alcohol during a violent confrontation in which he punched a manager and told the man “I will give you $100,000 to punch me in the face right now.”
Rolling Stone calls the flow of wine during Rodrick’s visit a “never-ending reservoir.” However, Depp seemed to take pride in his drinking as he called it “insulting” that it was reported within a lawsuit that he spent $30,000 a month on wine as, he said, “it was far more.”
The lawsuit (filed by The Management Company) also cites Depp spending $75 million on 14 residences, $3 million to shoot the ashes of deceased friend Hunter S. Thompson into the sky from a cannon and $7,000 to purchase a couch for his daughter–from the set of Keeping Up With The Kardashians.
Depp described to Rodrick how he descended into a deep depression following his divorce and legal troubles. He began his mornings with a glass of vodka and sunk into self-pity. “I was as low as I believe I could have gotten,” said Depp of this time, “I kept trying to figure out what I’d done to deserve this.”
The Rolling Stone article calls Depp “a lost boy who won’t find his way home before dark.” He has crashed down from the pinnacle of glory and fame. Through this, Depp has broken his facade of a charming wild-child–he is a man who long hid his true self just enough to be accepted. Johnny Depp’s fall has not only resulted in his own dark disorientation but has endangered and hurt those closest to him, leaving even his past glory marred.